Open Wonderland for Entrepreneurs

July 16, 2011

By Johanna Pirker1 and Christian Guetl1, 2

J Pirker

Joanna Pirker

Johanna has a BSc from Graz University of Technology and is currently pursuing her MSc in Software Development.   As part of the research division, she focuses efforts on e-Learning.   Johanna  is also actively working on the EU project CBVI (Cross Border Virtual Incubator) in 3D virtual worlds.

1Institute for Information Systems and Computer Media (IICM)
Graz University of Technology
Graz, Austria

C. Gutl

Christian Gütl

Christian is an Assistant Professor (Univ.-Doz) at Graz University of Technology and an Adjunct Research Professor at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, WA. He is also head of GÜTL IT Research & Consulting and an expert involved in national and international review and evaluation activities.

He is head of the Advanced Educational Media Technologies (AEMT) Group which focuses on research, development and application of computer-based media technologies for communication, information access and knowledge exchange. Research interests and expertise include cross-media retrieval, natural language processing, information visualization, adaptive systems, e-learning & e-assessment, and virtual 3D environments.

1Institute for Information Systems and Computer Media (IICM)
Graz University of Technology
Graz, Austria

2Curtin Business School – School of Information Systems
Curtin University
Perth, WA

The Virtual Incubator World (VIW) is a virtual world specifically for start-up entrepreneurs designed by the AEMT research group of the Graz University of Technology as part of the European project “Cross Border Virtual Incubator.

The design of the VIW, which has all the advantages of virtual 3D worlds in comparison to conventional e-leaning systems, fullfills the needs of business innovation students and start-up entrepreneurs. The VIW supports both the curriculum and activities of incubation centers, focusing on the social factors and bringing together potential start-up entrepreneurs, teachers, experts, trainers, and potential investors.  The VIW also supports the “real business” activities of entrepreneurs, including a virtual space to meet peers and exchange experiences as well as a venue to present business ideas to investors. The final focus of the VIW is supporting entrepreneurship training activities.

About the Virtual Incubator World

To give students a clear separation between different kinds of activities, the VIW is divided into the four areas, the Welcome Area, the Virtual Incubator Café, the Seminar Room and the Business Idea Presentation Area. Every area offers students different possibilities and tools, which helps to avoid confusion.

When students or start-up entrepreneurs enter the world, they start in the Welcome Area where they can find common information about the system, the options available throughout the world, and the instructions and timetables for the courses and seminars offered in the VIW.

The “Incubator Café” provides business students with an informal space where they can meet, discuss topics, and work together on their projects. It is a comfortable place where potential start-up entrepreneurs can introduce themselves on a presentation wall, work together on whiteboards, leave comments on sticky notes, or just listen to the radio together and chat.

Virtual Incubator Café

In the more formal “Seminar Room,” students can participate in virtual classes or workshops. Here business students, teachers and experts will find a suite of tools for collaboration and presentation. They can discuss topics on the whiteboard, upload PDFs and images, and work together on Open Office documents.

Seminar Room

The “Business Idea Presentation Area” is a place where students can set up presentations of their business ideas and business plans. Other students and experts can then comment on these ideas and give suggestions for improvements.

Business Idea Presentation Area

Value for Start-ups

For this project, we identified different values and needs of potential start-up entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs need a large social network to publicize their project and also to meet potential partners or investors. They also need a place to work together on ideas and plans, as well as access to training and a place to simulate business activities like sales calls and presentations of their business concept. All these requirements are perfectly met by the capabilities of Open Wonderland.

  • Social Contacts (Networking)

Start-up entrepreneurs need the help of business experts, possible financiers or investors, and their social network. Due to the entrepreneurs physical location, it is often hard for them to extend their networks. In the virtual world, they can set up meetings independent of locale and timezone, overcoming the problem of being physically separated from the people who may be able to help them get their business started.

  • Collaboration

Both business students and start-up entrepreneurs who want to get the required knowledge about building a successful business are welcome in the world. They can work together on business ideas or business plans, they can participate in virtual workshops and seminars, and they can find important documents written by experts within the world.

  • Role-playing Games

In the VIW, students and entrepreneurs can work together to practice product presentations, simulate business sales conversations, and role play discussions between entrepreneurs and investors. The start-up entrepreneurs gain experience presenting their ideas and receive valuable feedback from their colleagues. In addition, the participants who play the role of investors acquire an important understanding of an investor’s point of view.

  • Meeting Space with Investors

After students create and develop their business ideas and business plans, they have an opportunity to present at a virtual incubator fair. At these events, start-up entrepreneurs and students gather with invited experts and financiers. Here, entrepreneurs have the chance to present their ideas to experts and potential investors from all over the world.


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